Fifteen Years After: Recalling our Anticipation at the end of the Cold War

By Maru Gubena

At the very end of the 1980s, when we witnessed the irreversible and forceful speed of the winds at the end of the Cold War, we all anticipated that a relatively peaceful, free world and a harmonious international community were being shaped and set on the right path. We were convinced, as we were told repeatedly by the powerful international media, that as soon as the undesired economic systems – socialism and communism, our common enemy which had been a source of division and permanent tension, and an obstacle to human progress – were gone from every aspect of world society, everyone, whether poor or rich, would say goodbye to poverty, disease, conflict and war forever. It was also emphasized again and again by the leaders of western countries and by respected, well-known media commentators that every member of the international community would have enough to eat, enjoy inexpensive or even free health care, and would live in peace and prosperity. Because of these high expectations of sharing and enjoying the fruits of the end of the Cold War, the excitement among both poor and rich, young and old was explosive and out of proportion. 

It is additionally worthwhile to note that in the early stages of the end of the Cold War, this widespread hope for economic prosperity and political stability was mainly planted in the minds of Africans. At that time, Africans expected that Africa would quickly emerge from its chronic, long-standing economic poverty and dependence upon other nations. They also thought these winds of change would bring new leadership, democratization and political stabilization; more social affiliation, including the cultivation of habits of peaceful transfer of power; and the diversion of expenditures from the military to health, employment, education and other essential sectors of society. A particular conviction among Africans was that one enemy – internal and external conflict – would, along with the Cold War, be gone. In other words, it was expected that Africa would no longer be a battlefield for dictators – and certainly not that it would be controlled and ruled by a newly emerged empire – the United States.  

It was moreover true that, given the end of East–West competition and Africa’s potential resources, including its population of over eight hundred million people (of which almost 54 percent is Muslim), it was hoped that a path to closer and cooperative cultural, political and economic relations between Africa and the US/Europe would be carefully crafted and cemented. The same was true for the over 250 million people in the Middle East. The hopes and expectations of the Middle East were particularly focused on improving and strengthening socio-cultural, linguistic economic links and relations with the Arab/Muslim countries of Africa, on the one hand, and on conflict resolution on the other. Although almost all the states of the Middle East remained under the influence of the United States and its European allies throughout the Cold War, the beginning of the 1990s was marked by hopeful signs among Arabs/Muslims for a lasting solution to the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict and a peaceful, harmonious coexistence and relations with the United States in particular and the international community in general. 

Even Europeans and a good portion of US society, who have not seen war at their backdoor for over six decades, had more or less the same expectations of the end of the Cold War. At that time, only a few people who tended towards gloomy thoughts continued to insist that the permanent enemies of man, such as poverty, disease and war would never be banished from human society, despite the end of the Cold War. In fact, highly influential, internationally respected experts in history, peace and war in modern society argued convincingly, with enormous confidence and certainty, not only that the hopes and expectation of the people of developing countries would be dashed, but that political instability and war in some regions of the world would deteriorate, going from bad to worse immediately as the end of the Cold War approached and thereafter. They predicted an enormous loss of human life, with the number of people suffering increasing astronomically and exceeding the number killed and suffering during the events of the Cold War period. 

Indeed, while the United States and its European allies have continued to enjoy the fruits of the end of the Cold War on many fronts, including the fields of economy and politics, the repercussions for the African and Arab/Muslim countries that were previously protected by the iron walls and fences of the Cold war have been and continue to be immense – suffering to an immeasurable degree, including the loss of human life, irreparable destruction of cities and of health and educational sectors, the loss of irreplaceable artifacts and other valuable assets – due to the imbalance in power created by the end of the Cold War.  

The end of the Cold War had obvious advantages for countries that helped to devise the political and economic techniques that enabled the successful toppling and annihilation of the entire social and economic fabric of the former Soviet Union and its allies, which had been regarded as a common enemy and rival of capitalism: that is, a system based on the ideal of the freedom of individuals to own wealth, even if acquired by exploiting the forced labour of others, and also by violent extortion of the land, property and money of other countries and peoples. 

The most obvious advantage of the end of the Cold War for Western countries is that Europe and the United States have profited heavily. They continue to enjoy life, with an increasing amount of political stability along with total freedom of movement even in the former East block countries, and with little or no possibility of development of a hostile ideology in the near future; relative economic growth due to decreasing military expenditures (in western European countries) and an accelerated expansion of opportunities for small and larger industries and businesses in the former socialist and communist countries, and free access to global domination, including the silencing of the United Nations by the United States. More importantly, there is the enormous confidence and pride inculcated in the minds of a good number of Americans that has accompanied becoming the only remaining major military and economic power on earth, with the opportunity to expand their cultural and economic interests and military power around the globe.  

On the other hand, however, almost all developing countries, especially those with potential in the form of natural resources and a cheap labour force and other human capital, will be forced to listen attentively to every statement formulated and shaped in cooperation with the state of Israel and presented to them by the United States and the coalition of the “willing,” (if this has ever existed). Such countries have no legal means or tools to modify or reject the lists presented to them; they have no international body with the required economic and military power to protect them. Those countries are and will remain powerless and helpless, unless the US decides someday to respect and listen to the organization that represents the entire international community. These wealthy countries that are the current and future victims of US foreign policy must therefore accept any proposed shopping lists formulated and presented to them by the Secretary of State of the United States. Rejecting or neglecting to effectively implement any of the demands of these lists can have immeasurable repercussions, including limitless physical and psychological destruction. Further, while American and European populations can rest, sleep quietly and spend relaxed days and nights, enjoying the multiple results of the end of the Cold War, Africans and Arabs/Muslims spend sleepless nights and live in the uncertainty of not knowing of what tomorrow or after tomorrow will bring.  

Dr. Maru Gubena, from Ethiopia, is a political economist, writer and publisher. Readers who wish to contact the author can reach me at

Published in: on December 11, 2006 at 3:12 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Dr. Maru,

    Thanks for yoour inspiring article as usual! please keep it up!

    Yes that is it! How sad to realized the western world is growing totally blind. U humain, and seems there is no regeret for the grave mistakes they are commiting like the current Bush adminstration foreign policy.

    Is it not shame to knew facts like the following?
    Well not at least them, b/c they knew it and they doing it. So, if we know we can do any thing about it, there no time to wait. awko yetegna bikesekisut aysema new na inesu ke insu minim ayitebekim.

  2. Want to cooperate with our natural health portal?

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